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‘Largely overlooked’ Chicago singer-songwriter Terry Callier dies at 67

10/23/96--Terry Callier performs Jazz Record Mart/444 N. Wabash--Sachs --Phoby Tom Cruze

10/23/96--Terry Callier performs at the Jazz Record Mart/444 N. Wabash--Sachs --Photo by Tom Cruze

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Updated: November 30, 2012 6:28AM

A man of many moods, a musician of varied colors, Chicago-born singer-songwriter Terry Callier has died.

Mr. Callier died Saturday surrounded by family at a Chicago hospital. He had been battling throat cancer for 18 months.

He was 67.

Early reports of his death filtered through music websites including Stereogum, which said, “Like England’s Nick Drake, the Chicago-based Callier was largely overlooked for much of his artistic prime.”

Mr. Callier had vanished from the mainstream music world since 2009 when his final album, “Hidden Conversations,” was written and produced with Massive Attack. Mr. Callier’s unique marriage of jazz, soul and folk idioms was representative of Chicago’s late 20th century diversity in a manner that paralleled the late Oscar Brown Jr. Mr. Callier had spent recent years dividing his time between Chicago and England.

Mr. Callier’s music was being recognized by younger artists such as England’s Michael Kiwaunuka, who appeared this year at Lollapalooza.

Kiwaunuka cited Mr. Callier’s 1964 release “The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier” as a template for his music. “Those nuances, colors, times and chords inspire me so much, I want to make a mish-mash of all that,” he told the Sun-Times this year.

Chicago friends had not heard from Mr. Callier in several years. The trail dried up around 2002, after Mr. Callier completed a Monday night residency subbing for Patricia Barber at the Green Mill.

Mr. Callier was born on May 24, 1945, in Chicago and reared in the Cabrini-Green neighbhorhood. He was a childhood friend of area residents Major Lance and Curtis Mayfield, who had joined Jerry Butler in the early versions of the Impressions.

At 17, he signed with Chess, which in 1963 released his first single, “Look at Me Now.”

“At first he blended black folk music with country music to create a sound that was really on the edge,” Barge said Sunday.

In 1996 Mr. Callier told the Sun-Times, “People respond to me because I’m a throwback to an older tradition that believed you should do more than sing a song for an audience, that you should make people feel something. You can make accessible music and still sing about love and peace and truth and life and death. In the end, those are the only things that matter.”

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